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Time Stopped. And then...

· Ramblings

Time stopped. And then ever so slightly it ticked by. Millisecond by millisecond.

As competitive skydivers we train our brain to cram as much into 35seconds as possible. Sometimes competition jumps feel like minutes.

Was this why time had stopped for me at this precise moment? Yes something bad was about to happen. Time slows for everyone in this situation. But was the feeling of time slowing down exaggerated by my skydiving training? Or was this just a natural response to an impending collision?

My 5yo stepson and I, let's call him Z, were cycling through the park. I always follow just a little behind in case he crashes; it's only been four weeks since I taught him to ride a bike. The crashes are almost non-existent now but better to be able to see him in front than to be constantly checking behind me.

We were trying to find his mum and his sister. It was our mission. It was his sister's first birthday and we were getting some fresh air to exercise the fog of a cake laden afternoon lunch out of the system.

They'd left the house before us on foot with the buggy and we were trying to catch up. The last text had indicated they were nearby.

We weren't moving fast and had no intention to. I wore my helmet. He did. So I had to too. His helmet chin strap was a little loose but it was ok, he hadn't crashed in ages and we weren't travelling fast. I calculated the chances of him crashing to be minimal. After all, we weren't going fast.

Just the occasional pedal to keep going, walking speed, not too fast or we would have to focus on the path and not be able to scan the park.

In order to see a little better, I sat up a little straighter on my bike and shifted my grip from my drop handlebars, where the brake levers are, to the flats. I do this all the time when I'm out cycling, everyone does.

I couldn't see Louise's long flowing white summer dress and the black buggy. Not even a silhouette that might be them. Where could they be?

They must have walked further in the time than we'd expected. Maybe I should call her?

I glanced back at the path.

Time stopped. And then ever so slightly it ticked by. Millisecond by millisecond.

Z had slammed on both brakes and was performing an emergency stop. He's only 5. Emergency stops are kinda fun when you've only been cycling a month. He was now stationary and less than a metre away.

Could I move my hands quickly enough to the drops and squeeze my brakes? Tricky. It would mean momentarily taking my hands and weight off the handlebars.

Could I steer to one side? I might be able to.

Z is now steering his bike so that he is parked across the path in order to look back at me better.

You can only do one action in the time available, Brian, which is it?

Turns out it was neither.

I tried to steer but my bike hit Z's bike and stopped abruptly. My momentum carried me forward and life was suddenly upended as I went over the handlebars. Z and his bike fell onto his right side and slightly away from the direction I was falling. I wouldn't land on him. A good thing. I heard him cry out as he hit the tarmac. A bad thing. I worried about him.

The bikes clatter together and clatter louder as they hit the floor.

I put my hands out now to protect my face and the pain was all over. Hands, elbows as they hit the floor. Legs as they scraped over the metal bikes. I might have hit my helmet on the ground, I don't recall. That moment, all my sense were all jumbled.

I'm lying on the ground. It hurts. Get up Brian, you're the adult, you have to look after the 5yo. I'm shaken and it takes a second for my head to clear.

Z starts talking. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I didn't meant to.

Dammit. He thinks it was his fault. Ok, get up Brian.

I look at my hands, the heels of my palms are red but the skin appears mostly intact. I get up. My knees are ok. There's a hole in my shin but no blood yet although almost inevitably there will be. The lump around the hole is growing almost as I look at it. Pulsing. it looks like it'll be a golf ball in no time. But it's ok. Nothing broken. I'm up. Time to be the adult.

Are you okay Z? He shows me two tiny cuts, both only a couple of millimetres long. One on his wrist and one on his ankle. We got away with it but he cries. It was a big shock for someone so little. So much emotion.

I give him a hug and reassure him that it was my fault. Dammit. A grown man, an adult, a responsible adult had just cycled into a child. I felt pretty stupid

A girl comes skateboarding over. A man runs towards us from the other direction. Slight panic in their offers of help but we politely decline. We don't want to breathe on them as much we don't want them to breathe on us. Z's eyes are dry now.

We're ok, just some bumps and bruises. Nothing broken. My pride is hurt the most.

We get the bikes up. Z's is fine. My rear wheel is now rubbing. There's a slight bulge on one side of the wheel rim or maybe the brake caliper got knocked, or both. It's not running too badly, I can still ride it home.

But actually, we've got our mission to complete first. We were out looking for Z's mum. We still are but now we really have to find her.

Z needs his mum.

I need my wife.